The lines wove around the block again both Saturday and Sunday evenings with folks waiting to get into the Castro Theater for this year’s International South Asian Film Festival. In a film that was very appropriately described as “unhurried,” we got a nice nap in at Saturday’s show, Bombay Summer.
Sunday evening was a completely different story, though. Although security was very tight (we thought we were going to get frisked on the way into the theater), the mood was nevertheless light and full of excitement for Megan Doneman’s documentary, Yes Madam, Sir. And the theater exploded when it was announced that Kiran Bedi, the inspiration for the film, was here in San Francisco and would be speaking with the audience after the show.
Bedi, who’s described as India’s first female police officer, is much more than that, and we cannot believe that we weren’t familiar with her or her accomplishments prior to last night’s film. Bedi, a small but outspoken and committed woman, singlehandedly dispelled armed riots in Delhi, reformed one of India’s most notoriously corrupt and inhumane prisons, and battled the powers that be in India to deliver justice that lived up to her own conscience.
Filmmaker Doneman actually lived with Bedi (who she described as “bossy” and “stubborn” at the same time she hugged her onstage) for six years shooting the documentary, which highlights Bedi’s tireless efforts to sow seeds of inspiration and justice in a system plagued by what Bedi described as “many polluted rivers” amidst the rare “island of integrity.”
The film – along with Bedi’s journey – is inspirational on many levels, and there’s no question that Bedi was able to achieve what she did in large part because of her parents’ own unique and nonconformist idealism and desire to create opportunities for their daughters that did not exist for girls and women at the time in India. Bedi had a lot of advice for the audience, and her specific advice for women who seek to make and deliver a change in the world : “Keep your husband in the right place.” You’ll understand the advice when you see the film, which will be out in U.S. theaters in 2010.